Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Occupational Choice and Attainment

Silver, Catherine B.; Spilerman, Seymour

In this paper, we examine how two psychoanalytic concepts--character structure and defense mechanism-elucidate the issues of occupational choice and attainment. By character structure we mean an individual's general mode of functioning. By defense mechanism we mean ways of responding to anxiety. Both factors shape the behavioral expression of ideas and feelings and interact with occupational requirements. Using five styles of functioning-defined as personality disorders in DSM III-R-we discuss implications for career development. First, we argue that individuals with different character structures select into, and succeed in, occupations that reward their particular personality type. In this framework, mild levels of character disorders are turned into assets in certain work contexts. Second, we argue that mature--that is, "neurotic"--defenses enhance attainment in a wide range of occupations.


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Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

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September 12, 2013